Mother is very fond of growing plants. When we lived in army cantonments, we’d keep shifting from house to house. One of our houses had a huge plot of land attached, which she nurtured into a garden envied by everyone. But after Father’s retirement, we moved to a small flat, where her passion was restricted to small plants in flower pots.
One of the plants she so nurtured was a parijata. She loves the soothing white colour of the flower, and its subtle, almost undetectable scent. She had gone to great lengths to obtain a cutting, which she then very carefully nurtured. It struck roots and grew to be a fairly sturdy plants.
It was almost a hobby with us to watch her watch over the plant. There were fights with the sparrows who pecked at the leaves, attempts to shield it from excessive rain or sunlight and keeping it safe from strong winds. We went along with her in the range of emotions – anxiety, sorrow, restlessness, and finally the exuberant happiness when the first flower bloomed.
Parijata flowers in the night. We went to bed one night with longing looks at a bud that had become very big; that longing was rewarded with open petals the first thing in the morning. The next day more flowers blossomed, till we had a handful of flowers to be offered to our family Ganpati.
Over time, however, the plant grew so big that we had to seriously think of trimming it, or planting it in our society garden. Mother was worried that the gardener may not take good care of it, but she did not want to commit violence upon the bush that had given her so much joy. Reluctantly she gave it away to the gardener, a sullen-faced chap who wasn’t very pleased. He nevertheless planted the parijata in an unobtrusive corner of the garden.
He never took care of it. But the tree seemed to know that it had gone back to its natural environment. For it has survived several summers, monsoons and winters. It is now fairly tall tree, and produces flowers in copious quantities. Every morning you will notice a few elderly citizens plucking its flowers for their daily pooja.
Sometimes mother asks me to get a few flowers from the tree. This is a painful experience, because I consider plucking flowers an act of violence upon the tree. I prefer to pick the flowers that have fallen of their own accord. They are often fresh, and because they are free of the taint of violence, perfect (in my eyes) as divine offerings. I often get into fights with senior citizens if I catch them plucking flowers, or shaking the tree to make flowers fall.
Over time, I have managed to get a few people to understand this principle of ahimsa, and collect only fallen flowers. I hope I’ll be able to get everyone else around to this position soon. Mother’s parijata has now become my parijata. For shouldn’t the ephemeral and delicate beauty of the parijata flower remain free of the evil of violence?
Raamesh Gowri Raghavan, M.S.(I.I.Sc.), B.Sc. (Mumbai)